Reflections of a Survivor

By Brian Kahlbaugh




(And So We Ride)



We did not make the decision to ride…..stroke made that decision for us.


The nature of the ride itself, all other things being equal, becomes different. We see, feel, and perceive the ride differently now because we see our own finite place in life. The ride is full of difficulty. But it is not without its moments of joy, gratitude, and camaraderie.


Difficulty.  Somehow the word does not capture the depth and breadth of it. It is not possible in one limited article to begin to capture even a hint of the potential variety of deficits which can result. Stroke itself, regardless of type, does physical harm to the brain. From that damage comes forth a myriad of possible consequences in other areas of the body, mind, and spirit.


As well, the full impact(s) from a stroke may not be known to the survivor for some time after. In some cases weeks, other cases months, and still others the full manifestation of consequences may not be known for years.


To persons unfamiliar with stroke, outward appearances, and visible physical manifestations naturally become the most focused upon of stroke’s destructive potential. However, damage not visible or readily apparent to those unfamiliar with stroke seems to be a foreign concept which is difficult to grasp.


Some of these “non-visible” consequences are also of a physical nature. Most of these “non-visible” consequences are of the cognitive, emotional, and spiritual or “of concern to the soul” variety.


It is worthy to note here that in my own experience, and in the direct observation and interaction I have had with other survivors, without exception, there are combinations of both physical AND non-visible varieties of damage caused by stroke.


I have yet to come across a survivor who has had damage involving one category to the exclusion of the other. I would go so far as to assert that they are inseparable and that it is very rare to find them mutually exclusive.


It would be remiss not to consider the toll which is incurred on the part of the survivor’s family, caregiver(s), employer, and community. This toll involves great sacrifice, great love, and great loss.


For some of us the ride involves countless hours of rehabilitation, physical therapy, occupational therapy, relearning to speak, read, write, walk, and talk. Relearning to move some part of our body that simply does not want to cooperate with our desire for it to do what it once did.


Learning to use chairs, scooters, canes, and other devices which aid us in mobility. Trying to adapt to changes in the way we think, perceive, feel, and interact with our environments, and with other people. Overcoming changes and new challenges to our relationships.


Dealing with constant pain, restricted mobility, new medical concerns and risks, seizures, convulsions, fatigue, emotional liability, anxiety, depression, inability or restricted ability to even eat, changes to our living routines, changes to how we perceive ourselves and our own worth as human beings, changes to how OTHERS interact with us, changes in our abilities to fulfill certain responsibilities which we never even gave a thought to prior to our strokes.


Trying to do our best with all of these new challenges placed upon us while, at the same time, our spirits have been crushed just as badly or worse than the damage to our brain and body…………….and on.....and on…..and on…..and on.


Let alone the new challenges we face regarding employment, insurance, social security, and healthcare services.


AND: this list does not even begin to exhaust the kinds of things stroke survivors and caregivers need to deal with.


AND: all of these within the newly acquired context of our own mortality.


It is daunting when one considers the true scope

of the ride we are placed on

not by choice

but by consequence.






Since the day of my own strokes

I have come to know many heroes who display

much courage and stamina

which I could only wish

to possess myself

I have also come to know

that inside of me

a few people think

there is something which I never knew existed

before I stroked

for in the moments when I have felt the worst

and at my weakest points

therein I have been told

there is also a hero.


(There are no words which could hurt as wonderfully and course all the way through me with such pointedness and satisfaction, than those.)


I have experienced many moments of great joy through others, as the context of my mortality has allowed me to see and value the interactions with others in a new way. Seeing the humanity of others. The beauty of others. The laughter of my children. Smiles on the faces and hearts of those I love. Smiles on the faces and hearts of fellow survivors. All of these things now provide moments of joy for me.


I have experienced many moments of gratitude. I have been given one more day. I love others. Others love me. I get to experience more of life.

I get to. I love those three little words…..I GET TO.


I have experienced many moments of camaraderie. In this place called StrokeNet, as well as in my own life at home, I have shared many of those moments where I have been interacting with someone sharing things about stroke and about life in general, and without even hearing or speaking the words, knowing those people at a new level and sensing that they also know me at a new level. I think the reader well knows what I mean here. This is camaraderie. The sense of “I know you, you know me, and all of us care for each other.” It is a sense of belonging.







Copyright © January 2010

The Stroke Network, Inc.

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